Can You Tile Over Backsplash?

Installing a new backsplash can instantly update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. However, if you already have an existing backsplash, you may be wondering if you can simply tile over it rather than removing it entirely. The answer depends on a few factors.

Things to Consider Before Tiling Over an Existing Backsplash

Before deciding to tile over an existing backsplash, here are some things to take into account:

Condition of the Existing Backsplash

  • If the existing tiles are in good shape with no cracks, peeling, or missing grout, tiling over may be an option. However, if the existing tiles are damaged or deteriorating, it’s best to remove them completely before retiling.

Type of Existing Backsplash

  • Tile can usually be installed over existing tile. However, tiling over vinyl, plastic, or even painted backsplashes is not recommended as the new tiles will not adhere properly.

Thickness of the Existing Backsplash

  • Thicker tiles like stone tiles or travertine should be removed before retiling. The combined thickness of the old and new tile could cause the backsplash to protrude too far off the wall.

Flatness of the Existing Backsplash

  • Any unevenness in the existing backsplash will translate to the new tiled surface. Imperfections like bumps, pits, and grout lines will likely show through the new tile.

Waterproofing Issues

  • Tiling over an existing backsplash runs the risk of water infiltrating behind the tiles and causing damage over time. It’s best to remove the old backsplash and properly waterproof before retiling.

When It’s Okay to Tile Over an Existing Backsplash

If your existing backsplash is relatively flat and undamaged, tiling over it can save time and money on labor to remove it. Here are some instances when tiling over an existing backsplash can work:

  • The existing tiles are in excellent condition with no need to replace broken or damaged tiles.
  • The existing backsplash is made of ceramic tile, cement board, or another appropriate water-resistant material. Tile, stone, or cement board are your best options for tiling over an existing surface.
  • The existing backsplash is securely attached to the wall with no loose tiles, peeling grout, or gaps present.
  • The existing tile is no more than a few layers thick for a relatively flat surface for the new tiles.
  • You are able to properly prepare the existing backsplash (cleaning, roughening, etc.) to create adhesion for the new tiles.

How to Tile Over an Existing Backsplash

If you determine your existing backsplash meets the right criteria, here are the general steps for tiling over it:

Clean and Rough Up the Surface

  • Clean the existing backsplash thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner. Use a scraper or wire brush to scuff up the glazed tile surface. This helps the new thinset mortar and tiles bond better.

Check for Loose Tiles

  • Tap the existing backsplash to check for any hollow or loose areas. Re-adhere or replace them as needed. Fill any missing grout lines with new grout.

Apply a Bonding Agent

  • Use a product like a tile mastic or acrylic bonding agent over the cleaned surface. This helps bond the new thinset mortar to the old tile.

Spread Thinset Mortar

  • Apply a layer of thinset mortar with a notched trowel. Use a formulation meant for large tiles and bonding to existing surfaces.

Set the New Tiles

  • Lay the new tiles in the mortar. Make sure the coverage and thickness are sufficient underneath each tile.

Grout and Seal

  • Once the tile adhesive cures, grout the new tiles and apply grout sealer. Caulk along countertops or edges.

Key Considerations When Tiling Over Backsplash

  • Use a high quality modified thinset mortar and apply a thick, even layer.
  • Take extra care preparing and cleaning the existing tile surface.
  • Select new tiles that are not much heavier than the existing tiles.
  • Expect some existing grout lines or tile edges to be visible underneath new tile.
  • Be prepared to rip out tiles and properly start over if adhesion issues emerge.

Tiling over an existing backsplash is possible in certain situations, but always best to consult a tile professional if unsure. With careful prep and planning, you can potentially save time and money installing right over an existing backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tiling Over Backsplashes

Can you use a different size tile when tiling over existing backsplash?

Yes, you can use a different size tile when tiling over an existing backsplash. Be sure to plan the tile layout ahead of time to achieve the look and scale you want with the new tile. Mixing tile sizes can create an interesting, varied backsplash design.

Should you take down drywall to install backsplash?

In most cases you do not need to remove drywall when installing a backsplash over existing tile. As long as the tiles are well adhered and the wall is in good shape, tiling can be done over drywall. Just be sure to prepare the surface properly.

How thick can a backsplash be?

Ideally a backsplash should not exceed 1 1/2 inches in total thickness, counting both the existing and new tile. Any more than that can make the backsplash prone to cracking and protruding too far off the wall. Keeping the combined thickness under 1 inch is recommended.

Can you put marble tile over existing backsplash?

It’s best not to install natural stone like marble over an existing backsplash. The thickness and weight of stone tiles make them unsuitable for going over another layer of tile. For best results, the existing tiles should be removed before installing marble backsplash tile.

What type of tile is best for tiling over existing backsplash?

Porcelain, ceramic, or glass tile can work well when tiling over an existing backsplash. These are lighter weight options than stone that adhere better as a secondary layer. Make sure the new tiles are durable and appropriate for a kitchen or bath.


Tiling over an existing backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can be a viable time and cost-saving option in certain circumstances. As long as the current tiles are in good shape and properly prepared, new thinset mortar and tile can form a durable bond over the old backsplash. However, if the existing tiles are damaged or unsuitable, removing them first remains the best practice. When in doubt, consult a tile installation professional to evaluate if your backsplash can support tiling over it. With careful planning and preparation, you can potentially achieve a brand new backsplash look without the hassle of a full tear-out.